U.S. jury convicts Saudi over Africa embassy bombings

A Saudi man described by prosecutors as one of Osama bin Laden`s most trusted lieutenants was convicted in a federal court in New York on Thursday in connection with the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Reuters| Last Updated: Feb 27, 2015, 02:28 AM IST

New York: A Saudi man described by prosecutors as one of Osama bin Laden`s most trusted lieutenants was convicted in a federal court in New York on Thursday in connection with the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Khalid al-Fawwaz, 52, faces up to life in prison after a jury convicted him on four conspiracy counts on their third day of deliberations.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said the verdict marked the 10th conviction at trial or via a guilty plea of a defendant tied to the bombings, which killed 224 people and injured more than 4,000.

"We hope this verdict gives some comfort to al Qaeda`s victims around the world," Bharara said in a statement.

Al-Fawwaz was not charged with planning the attacks. Instead, prosecutors said he functioned as a key bin Laden associate while living in London, disseminating the al Qaeda leader`s declarations of war to the media and sending equipment to al Qaeda members in Africa.

Al-Fawwaz was also accused of operating an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan in the early 1990s and helping lead an al Qaeda cell in Kenya`s capital, Nairobi, that later conducted surveillance ahead of the embassy bombing there.

A defence attorney, Bobbi Sternheim, said al-Fawwaz would appeal.

"Trying a pre-9/11 case in a post-9/11 era within blocks of the World Trade Center insured Mr. al-Fawwaz would never receive a fair trial from an impartial jury," she said, referring to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in downtown Manhattan.

Al-Fawwaz`s attorneys painted their client as a peaceful dissident who shared with bin Laden a desire to effect reform in their native Saudi Arabia, but turned away from him when he began calling for violence against U.S. civilians.

Prosecutors, however, said al-Fawwaz did whatever was asked of him to help advance al Qaeda`s mission.

The trial featured testimony from several victims of the bombings. A number of other victims watched some of the trial from the courtroom gallery.

Al-Fawwaz was arrested in London in 1998 and extradited to the United States in 2012 following a lengthy legal battle.

He was originally set to be tried alongside two co-defendants, Abu Anas al-Liby of Libya and Egyptian Adel Abdul Bary.

Al-Liby, also known as Nazih al-Ragye, died in custody last month after longstanding health problems. Bary pleaded guilty in September and was sentenced this month to 25 years in prison.

The case is U.S. v. al-Fawwaz, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 98-1023.